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Non-state actors have been active in the sphere of dispute processing across the world. In India they exist in traditional settings taking the form of ‘panchayats’, but also in more modern forms such as mediation by lawyers and settlements negotiated by NGOs and others with local and political prowess.[1] A closer examination of these forums reveals that their identification as ‘non-state’ can be problematized, because their processes reflect adaptation, adoption and negotiation with many forms, processes and values of state laws and its structures.[2]

The persistence of non-state actors in the arena of dispute settlement however tells a story of justice that commands continued research and further understanding. Recent judgements from the Supreme Court of India about the aspirations of a constitution that is ‘transformative’,[3] confirm what empirical evidence about dispute processing has been revealing all along: that the concept of justice is transitionary, almost becoming illusory at times.

This workshop seeks to explore the ideas of justice[4] that emerge from such different and diverse non-state forums. What do these concepts tell us in terms of their approach to what we understand as substantive or procedural law?  What are the engagements of state and non-state actors whether in Constitutional architectures, policy reform, or imaginations of legal systems? What are the various historical, political and sociological explanations for these varied ideas of justice?

While the quest to develop a concrete and definite form of justice will keep societies forever engaged, this workshop will attempt to bring together stories, narratives, oral histories and analysis that reveal people’s experiences with an ‘idea of justice’, thus ultimately enabling us to understand the multiple forms in which justice manifests itself. 

The workshop will be organized over two days, in Mumbai in April 2021. If the Covid-19 situation does not improve we will take a call in January 2021 to move the conference online.

We are looking for papers that cover the following thematic panels:

  • State and Non-state: Working with Boundaries and Binaries? This panel is meant for more theoretical papers analysing the usefulness of concepts like ‘state’ and ‘non-state’ and the perceived binaries these create.

  • The role of the non-state within the State. This panel would seek to examine what sort of a role the state legitimates non-state actors to play. It would include research analysing: case laws, discourses developed by the state and empirical evidence in this regard.

  • Non-state actors: Experiences with dispute processing. This panel will include papers that are based on empirical research that explores the working of different non-state actors engaged in dispute processing. The forms these actors take, the processes they adopt.

  • Digital platforms as non-state actors: While this would remain an extension of theme three, given the increasing usage of social media as a platform for ‘naming and shaming’ and thus, dispute processing, this panel will encourage papers that look at the life of grievance redressal and dispute processing experiences in the virtual world. 

  • State: Ideas, Perception and Responses. This panel will reach out to papers that analyse people’s preferences and mechanisms in dispute processing and what this tells us about society’s perception of the state.

  • Platform discussion: Ideas of justice. Analysing the dialogue between the state and non-state in India to examine the ideas of justice that arise from this.

Researchers from the disciplines of law, political and social sciences, area studies, anthropology or related fields as well as activists who deal with issues related to legal pluralism in India are encouraged to apply.


Participants from India will be awarded a stipend for their travel and accommodation costs.  International participants will be offered accommodation. Meals will be provided for an in person conference.


Submission Instructions: Please submit an abstract (500 words) that contains title, author, research question, methodology and your main argument to conference email by 31st October 2020. Selected participants will be informed by 30th November 2020. If your paper is selected to be presented at the conference, we will ask you to submit the final paper

(6,000 - 8,000 words) in electronic format by 1st March 2021. An honoraria of upto Rs. 5,000 for participants will be considered in case of an online conference.


Dr. Kalindi Kokal (IIT Bombay); Siddharth Peter de Souza (Justice Adda)

Image Credit: Siddhi Gupta

[1] Julia Maria Eckert, “Urban Governance and Emergent Forms of Legal Pluralism in Mumbai,” The Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law 36, no. 50 (January 1, 2004): 29–60,; Shalini Grover, “Jural Relations of Middle-Class Marriage and Women as Legal Subjects in the Imaginary of ‘New India,’” The Australian Journal of Anthropology, March 1, 2016, n/a-n/a,

[2] Erin Moore, “Dream Bread: An Exemplum in a Rajasthani Panchayat,” The Journal of American Folklore 103, no. 409 (July 1, 1990): 301–23,; Gopika Solanki, Adjudication in Religious Family Laws: Cultural Accommodation, Legal Pluralism, and Gender Equality in India, Cambridge Studies in Law and Society (Cambridge u.a.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2011); Jeffrey A. Redding, “The Case of Ayesha, Muslim ‘Courts’, and the Rule of Law: Some Ethnographic Lessons for Legal Theory,” Modern Asian Studies 48, no. 4 (July 2014): 940–85,

[3] Supreme Court of India, Aadhaar Judgment.pdf, SC SCC Online 1642 (Supreme Court of India 2018); Navtej Singh Johar & Ors. vs. Union of India, 1 Supreme Court Cases 791 (Supreme Court of India 2018).

[4] Amartya Sen, The Idea of Justice (London: Allen Lane, 2009).

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